January 29, 2006
The Enron Trial
The criminal trial of Enron's ex-CEOs, Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling, starts tomorrow and the country watches. A great deal of ink has been spilled already on this trial and there will more, much more. At risk is our placing too much social significance on the result. This will be a four month trial on a specific set of facts to a specific jury. An acquittal will not be proof that America coddles rich swindlers and convictions will not be proof that America punishes rich swindlers. The results will depend on how the facts play out at trial. The best lessons will be procedural: why does it cost millions to bring CEOs to trial? How should prosecutors present complex cases of financial fraud to a jury? What is the role of and appropriate procedure for parallel prosecutions (criminal and civil)? Whatever the result, I fear history will over-value the outcome.
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